Gender and Systemic Change: Stories from the Political Trenches


 In the picture above, Ms Bakopanos and Ms Corat at the 19 November Gender Views session.

On 19 November, the Gender Views session had as a guest the Honorable Eleni Bakopanos, P.C. at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Her intervention was on “Gender and Systemic Change: Stories from the Political Trenches.”

Ms Bakopanos is currently serving on the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors of Equal Voice as well as a founding member and Co-chair of the Quebec chapter of Equal Voice/A Voix Égales, a national multi-partisan organization whose mission is to promote more women in politics. In her outstanding career, Ms Bakopanos was the first Greek-born woman to be elected to the House of Commons as a Member of the Canadian Parliament.

In her remarks, Ms Bakopanos emphasized that engaging with youth is crucial to raise awareness and to increase their political participation. She further noted that education is fundamental for the new generations, especially for girls, to build their future and become leaders within their communities and beyond.

Ms Bakopanos admitted that being a female politician requires long hours and elicits criticism often based more on one’s appearance and look rather than the substance of the work, but she confirmed that focusing on delivering results and claiming any legitimate seat around the discussion tables is often the best strategy to be respected as a female leader and as a politician.  

Ms Saniye Gülser Corat, UNESCO Director for Gender Equality, highlighted the need for more investment in education. She underlined the transformative power of education to deconstruct gender stereotypes and to create new opportunities, especially for those in vulnerable situations. She also thanked MS Bakopanos for providing a very positive role model for immigrant women, especially at a time when immigrants and refugees are feared, avoided and marginalized.

Ms Bakopanos presentation was followed by a Q&A session, and the audience asked about discrimination and barriers faced by women to get funding in politics, and what impact the #MeToo movement had in politics. Ms Bakopanos recognized that women should dare to do anything they want to do, and should support each other in businesses and politics. Her motto is: “Be her! If you can’t, support her! If you can’t, celebrate her!”